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Gaza Strip residents go to the polls for the first time (AFP-FRANCE PRESSE) 01/27/05 1:13 AM ET)Source: http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=1515&ncid=1515&e=7&u=/afp/20050127/wl_mideast_afp/mideastpalestinianvote_050127061304 AFP} Agence France Presse AFP} Agence France Presse Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
GAZA CITY (AFP) - Voting began today in ten localities in the first municipal elections organised in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian officials said.

More than 90,000 voters are entitled to cast their ballots in 167 voting centres to choose 188 members of municipal councils from among 440 candidates, many of them independents

The towns voting included Beit Hanoun and Deir el Balah but not Gaza City itself.

Polling stations were due to close at 7:00 pm (1700 GMT).

The Palestinian authority has decided to run the municipal polls in stages. The first phase took place in parts of the West Bank last month. Now it is the turn of the Gaza Strip.

In April another 50 percent of the Palestinian territories will go to the polls.

The Fatah party of Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas and the radical Islamist movement Hamas both claimed to have won a majority of the seats available in the 26 municipal elections held in the West Bank on December 26.

This confusion was due mainly to conflicting claims on independent candidates.

Abbas has pledged to clean up the widespread corruption within the Palestinian Authority but Hamas is hoping that disillusioned voters will turn to them rather than members of Abbas´s own Fatah ruling movement.

According to the Palestinian ministry of local affairs, the turnout rate was over 80 percent with some 140,000 Palestinians voting, almost half of them women. (Copyright © 2005 Agence France Presse. 01/27/05)

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